Kenai Peninsula communities will get an overview of potential projects and economic developments Thursday at the annual Industry Outlook Forum, hosted by the Kenai Peninsula Economic Development District.
The all-day forum, held this year in Homer at the Christian Community Church, features a variety of panels on topics including mariculture, oil and gas, food sustainability, tourism, broadband and others.
KPEDD Executive Director Tim Dillon on Tuesday described the presentations as similar to TED Talks.
“Most presentations are 20 to 25 minutes long and it’s just hard hits,” he said. “This is what we got going on, this is how we’re doing it, and here’s some information. If you’ve got questions, here’s how to get a hold of us.”
The forum is hosted by KPEDD in collaboration with the cities and chambers of Commerce of Kenai, Soldotna, Homer and Seward, and is entirely free to attend — with food provided. KPEDD asks that those attending register in advance, to ensure enough food is prepared. For those outside of Homer, or unwilling to make the drive, the entire forum will be livestreamed on the Kenai Peninsula Economic Development District YouTube page.
The lunch hour, from noon to 1 p.m., is when KPEDD likes to spotlight something going on in the community, Dillon said. This year, that will be a Homer panel focused on the three biggest issues that are facing economic development, specifically in regards to the workforce. These are housing, transportation and child care, he said.
“Until we can get a good grip on those three pieces, the workforce is going to continue to be an issue for all of us.”
That panel, tied as the longest with only the Natural Resources Panel, will feature Karin Marks, chairman of the Homer Economic Development Commission; Brad Anderson, executive director of the Homer Chamber of Commerce; and Rob Dumouchel, Homer’s city manager.
A panel that Dillon said might turn some heads is “Food Sustainability Systems Around the Kenai Peninsula” featuring Rosanna McInnes, owner of Rosanna’s Garden Seldovia, and Marnie Olcott, CEO of the Challenger Learning Center of Alaska.
“People have asked us, ‘what’s the Challenger Center and space got to do with any of this,’” he said. “NASA and the research and things they’ve been doing for years is tied back to food sustainability. The folks at the Challenger Center are doing some really cool things.”
Throughout 2022, the Challenger Center hosted a series of Food Sustainability Workshops in partnership with Alaska Native organizations like the Salamatof Native Association. In September, Olcott told the Clarion that food sustainability has been a part of the Challenger mission since its inception.
Another highlight named by Dillon is “The Sea & Its Products,” featuring Nick Zorich, the founder and CEO of Agri-Sea Infrared Drying, and Jeff Hetrick, the mariculture director at Alutiiq Pride Marine Institute.
“Us and our four partners were key in getting that 49 million dollar grant through the federal government for mariculture,” he said. “We have two great speakers talking about things in the sea and what they’re doing.”
Assembling the annual forum is something that begins immediately after the last one ends, Dillon said. He and “a great team” sit down in the immediate aftermath and discuss what worked and didn’t. Dillon said he’ll start prompting speakers to come back for the following year as soon as he thanks them for their appearance — but that he’s also developing new connections.
“I don’t think we’ve ever been turned down by anybody that we’ve asked,” Dillon said.
In addition to the full livestream available on Thursday and then archived on the YouTube channel, Dillon said KPEDD has partnered with Martin Media to produce edited versions of each panel — which he anticipates will be available around a month after the forum.
To register for the Industry Outlook Forum, visit kpedd.org. To view the livestream — or the archive after the event — visit Kenai Peninsula Economic Development District on YouTube.
Reach reporter Jake Dye at email@example.com.